So, most would think I’m crazy for starting a blog about puppy raising when I haven’t even officially gotten the word that I am approved for the program. But, I have this extra good feeling that I am going to pass with flying colors and my puppy boy will be on his way before I know it, so I’m gonna get on with it. What? There’s nothing wrong with thinking positively!!
So it looks like an introduction is in order. Right now, I have no followers so I guess I don’t have anyone to introduce myself to…yet. With the intent that this blog connects me to other PR’s (puppy raisers) across the country, I will formally introduce myself, and give an insight into my dog background and what not. You know, the normal stuff.
My name is Cassie and I am–ahem–was…is going to be? Whatever. Any way you slice it, I love being a puppy raiser. I haven’t had a new charge in several years, but this is my new beginning. I’ve been doing the whole dog lover thing my entire life. When I was nine I was given a larger-than-me Labrador with agression issues, absolutely no training who spent his first nine months of his life locked up in a kennel all day every day. Oh yeah, and did I mention that the only language he knew was Spanish because the only person who talked to him all day was the kennel help, who just so happened to only speak Spanish? And guess what, he was my first 4-H dog. Wow, thanks mom and dad.
Max was a terror, but he turned into a pretty great dog. He was devoted to me and I adored him. We did some pretty awesome things our first year together and we had a bond that was incredibly strong. He was the smartest dog I’ve ever had, and I’m sure I will never ever love a dog quite as much as I loved Max.
Fast forward seven years, and you’ll find an awkward 16 1/2 year old Junior in high school. It was my sixth year in 4-H and I was bored with the usual dog project. I was anxious for something new, I wanted to start another adventure. Enter, Rowland.
Look at him. Isn’t he a handsome boy? (This is the part where you agree with me.) He was my very first Guide dog puppy of my own. Sure I had several dogs I got to spend time with and learn from in the year and a half before I got Rowland, and I can still name each and every one of them and what I loved the most about each of them, but that is a blog post in and of itself. Rowland was mine and I was his. We were very rarely separated and that is just the way I liked it.
Rowland was recalled in early 2007 for formal training. He spent a month with another raiser in California before going to the kennels. The day he left me was the day my heart broke. I knew before I even went into it that I would have to see him go and that thought was in the back of my mind every day. How could it not be when I put on his vest every day, and it’s a constant reminder that the puppy I was nurturing is really not mine? Still, nothing could prepare my 17 year old heart for that type of heartache. I think I would have rather been broken up with on my birthday.
Speaking of birthdays, Rowland was released from the guide dog program on my 18th birthday. He was far too mellow and didn’t want to lead ahead. He prefered hanging out in the perfect heel position. As much as I wanted to take him back, I knew I couldn’t. I had so much going on, and the raiser he spent time with before going into the school was interested in keeping him so there he stayed. He is serving as a therapy dog, and I’m glad he gets to work. But man, do I miss my boy every day.
And here I am today. With seven years worth of mistakes, memories and lessons learned, I find myself anxious to take the plunge again. I have decided that I do not want to continue in the land of Guide dogs, but rather I’m going to try my hand with assistance dogs. I have searched long and hard for a perfect school for me, and I have spent countless hours reading and re-reading information about several different programs. I have finally settled on a school that is just right, and I couldn’t be more thrilled, excited, nervous, scared and intimidated.
What? Oh, you want to know what I chose? Oh okay fine. I will share that with you. God willing, I will have a puppy from Canine Companions for Independence as early as January. That’s if I can pass the home inspection. That’s where the extra good feeling comes in. I know I am more than qualified to raise and train a tiny new aspiring service dog, and I know my home will be just fine. I have all the requirements needed. I just need to clear it with my Landlord as I am a renter. We currently have dogs, so I’m sure that will not be a problem. But I’m still anxious and waiting on the edge of my seat.
I first encountered Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) when I purchased their book, Love Heels. (Seriously it’s amazing. Go out and buy it right now, and read it, and weep. It’s incredible.) I was so moved by each story and I wanted to be involved. Of course, I was raising my Rowland at the time so that was not in the cards. After Rowland returned to school, I had researched other programs and had come close to chosing a local school in Anacortes. They have a great program, and I would be honored to be a part of it but it just wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. I’m glad I didn’t choose those other schools because I wouldn’t be standing on the edge of this metaphorical cliff if I had. And let me tell you, the view looks great.
Let me tell you a little bit about my chosen school. CCI was founded in 1975 and is headquartered in Santa Rosa, CA. There are puppy raisers all across the country, uniting for a common cause. CCI provides highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to graduates at no cost. I think that’s what impresses me the most. This program is truly not for profit. I am so excited to become a part of such a legacy.
I met with the Puget Sound chapter last night (10/17) and I must say, I was instantly hooked. I knew that I was interested in the school, but I had no idea that it would captivate me as quickly as it did. Instantly I fell in love with everything about it. As you can tell, I’m having a hard time finding the words to describe my experience. Hopefully I’ll get over that soon. I am looking forward to many more meetings, and getting to know each of the raisers and their dogs. I think I’m into something good here.
So how’s that for an introduction? Are you still with me? Oh good, I haven’t lost you. I look forward to sharing more as the days go by. I can’t wait for the post where I get to show off my new handsome man. (Again with the positive thinking.) So, if you can keep your fingers and paws crossed for me, I’ll be sure to keep you posted every step of the way.